Research: young barristers are much cleverer than older ones

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By Alex Aldridge on

New figures give weight to the suspicion that the senior bar is full of not-so-bright slackers from privileged backgrounds


The mediocre academic performance of senior members of the bar starkly contrasts the high academic standards of baby barristers, a Bar Council survey has revealed.

34% of barristers under 30 (and 41% of those who have joined the bar within the last three years) have first class degrees, with a mere 3% having graduated with a 2:2.

But standards of entry to the bar weren’t always so strict. As you can see in the graph below — taken from the Bar Council’s Barristers’ Working Lives Survey — 38% of barristers aged 50-59 have a 2:2, with a mere 10% having attained a first.


Also up is the proportion of young barristers who went to Oxbridge. 45% of new entrants to the bar in the last three years attended Oxford or Cambridge compared to 31% across the remainder of the bar.

The good news for social mobility is that these findings coincide with a rise in state school-educated Oxbridge graduates joining the bar. According to the survey, there are more under 30s from state school/Oxbridge backgrounds (24%) than older age groups (12%). Although no specific figures are given, the survey also notes that “more of the under 30 age group attended state schools and fewer of the 60 plus age group”. Overall, 56% of barristers went to state schools and 44% to private schools — marking the bar out as very different to the rest of UK society, with only 7% of the general population having been privately educated.

The full survey — which was sent to a representative sample of half of the bar and achieved a response rate of 44% — is here.